Sanabria v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:First Division Circuit Court, Pulaski County

DOCKET NO.: 76-1040
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 54 (1978)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1978

Francis J. Dimento – for petitioner
Frank H. Easterbrook – for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court

Facts of the case


Media for Sanabria v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 08, 1977 in Sanabria v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 14, 1978 in Sanabria v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment of the Court in Sanabria against the United States will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The petitioner was indicted and tried along with several others for the federal offense of conducting an illegal gambling operation.

The single-count indictment alleged in part that the gambling business violated a state law, prohibiting both horse-race betting and numbers betting.

At the close of the government’s case, the District Court granted a motion to exclude all evidence of numbers betting on the ground that the particular provision of state law cited in indictment did not actually prohibit numbers betting.

Petitioner’s counsel then moved for judgment of acquittal, contending that there was insufficient evidence to show petitioner’s involvement with the horse-race betting.

The court granted the motion and entered the judgment of acquittal.

On the government’s appeal, the Court of Appeals first held that the District Court had dismissed the government’s numbers betting theory and that petitioner had not been acquitted of that offense.

It therefore concluded that a new trial of the petitioner on the charge relating only to numbers would not be prohibited by the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The court went on to hold that the trial court had erroneously excluded the evidence linked to the numbers betting and remanded for a new trial, this only on the numbers theory.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the Court of Appeals.

We hold that a retrial on the numbers theory of liability is barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The Court erred in concluding that the District Court dismissed the discrete theory of liability.

The District Court actually entered the judgment of acquittal on the entire single count charge because it found that the government had just not shown that petitioner was connected with gambling business.

Moreover even if it could be said that the District Court only dismissed the numbers theory, petitioner’s acquittal barred the retrial.

He was charged with participation in a single gambling business and was acquitted of participating in that gambling business.

The government may not again attempt to show through a different theory that petitioners participated in the same gambling business, during the same time period involved in the first trial.

Even though the trial court’s ruling on the evidentiary question was found to be erroneous, once a defendant is acquitted of an offense, the Double Jeopardy Clause absolutely bars a second trial on that offense.

We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. White joins only in Parts I, II-A and III of this opinion and Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.